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Evanston Covid-19

Signs are seen at Clark Street Beach during COVID-19 as people gather in Evanston, Ill., Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Gathering of up to 50 people will be allowed across the state starting Friday as Illinois moves into the fourth phase of its reopening plan.

Nam Y. Huh

Newsletter: Is Illinois Suffering A COVID-19 Setback?

Hey there! It’s Friday, and I’m working over the weekend to help out with reporting stories for the radio. We can still swear on air, right? Here’s what you need to know today. (PS: You can have this delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.)

1. COVID-19 cases reach highest single day total since early June in Illinois

Illinois officials today announced 1,317 new COVID-19 cases, the highest number reported in a single day since June 2, which saw 1,614 cases. The state also reported another 25 deaths.

More than 151,000 cases and more than 7,100 deaths have been reported in Illinois since the beginning of the pandemic. The state’s positivity rate, which is slightly increasing, is 2.9%. [WBEZ]

Meanwhile, 34 states are not conducting enough tests to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, reports The New York Times. Only 12 states are meeting their targets, and five states, including Illinois, are close to performing enough tests.

Nationwide, an average of 634,000 people per day are being tested, way below the target of 1.6 million daily tests. [New York Times]

Here’s a map showing where cases are rising in the U.S. [NPR]

In Chicago, bars, restaurants and other businesses selling alcohol must close by midnight under a new regulation intended to stem the spread of COVID-19. [Block Club Chicago]

Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools still hasn’t released a plan for the next academic year. But the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools today unveiled a plan that requires students to undergo daily temperature checks and wear masks indoors. [Chicago Sun-Times]

2. Chicago’s not-so-fresh breath of air

The Chicago area saw eight days straight of bad air quality — the longest stretch of high pollution for the region in more than a decade, reports the Chicago Tribune. The air quality was so bad at the beginning of the month that Los Angeles, known for its smog, had cleaner air.

The Trib reports that the heat wave rolling through the Midwest played a huge role. The hot temperatures “baked exhaust from automobile tailpipes, diesel engines and factory smokestacks into smog,” according to the newspaper.

The news comes as scientists have linked exposure to pollution to COVID-19 death rates. [Chicago Tribune]

3. Federal immigration officials offer “citizens academy” in Chicago, sparking concerns about vigilantism

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is offering a training program in Chicago on “defensive tactics, firearms familiarization and targeted arrests,” reports WBEZ’s María Inés Zamudio.

The “citizens academy,” scheduled for September, will include 10 to 12 people who applied and passed a background check.

An ICE official told WBEZ the program aims to better inform the public about how the federal agency operates. But immigration activists say they are suspicious of ICE’s motives.

“What it sounds like to me is a vigilante academy,” said Chicago Ald. Rossana Rodriguez. [WBEZ]

4. GOP appears open to giving states more money to avoid Election Day chaos

Congressional Republicans are signaling an openness to provide federal aid to states and localities that are unprepared to handle an expected surge in absentee ballots, reports NPR.

As many as 70% of all ballots in November’s election could be cast via the mail, experts say, and cash-strapped states and counties will need to radically upgrade their vote-counting operations.

A Senate hearing over Election Day preparedness is expected later this month after Congress returns from a summer break. [NPR]

Meanwhile, some Republican strategists are concerned that President Donald Trump’s attacks on absentee ballots will hurt him in November. [Washington Post]

5. Russian intelligence agency believed to be source of bounty program on U.S. troops

U.S. intelligence believes the Russian spy agency known as GRU is likely behind a suspected Russian bounty program that targeted American troops, reports NPR.

The CIA believes Russia offered payments to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. U.S. and Afghan officials have long suspected Russia of providing weapons and training to the Taliban, but the bounty program, if true, would be a major escalation in tensions between the U.S. and Russia.

GRU has been linked in recent years to several brazen operations abroad, including the hack of Democratic Party emails in the 2016 U.S. election. Russia denies it is behind a pay-to-kill bounty program. [NPR]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The debate over removing monuments and portraits of slave owners has reached the Illinois State Capitol. [WBEZ]
  • The U.S. Roman Catholic Church got at least $1.4 billion in federal coronavirus relief. [AP]
  • Most Americans do not support “defunding the police,” according to a Pew Research Center poll. [NPR]
  • Chief Justice John Roberts played “perhaps the most pivotal role of any chief justice in close to a century” during this term, reports NPR’s Nina Totenberg. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

“Scream inside your heart” may sound like the existential dread I wake up to every morning, but it’s also advice that a Japanese amusement park is giving to roller-coaster riders.

The Fuji-Q Highland amusement park near Tokyo doesn’t want riders to scream out loud because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s basically asking them to internalize their fear, which is something I’ve paid a therapist a lot of money to undo. But seriously, click the link to see two men riding a roller coaster with stone-cold faces. [NPR]

Speaking of amusement parks, a documentary about “the most dangerous water park in the world” will premiere on HBO Max next month. [EW]

Tell me something good ...

July is usually a big month for movies, so I’d like to know: What are some of your favorite summer movies?

Mary Nell Murphy writes:

“My most memorable summer movie was Pink Cadillac with Clint Eastwood and the always-adorable Bernadette Peters. It was 1989, my Rogers Park apartment did not have AC, so I found welcome relief watching this one-star action film — which usually isn’t my style. But hey, chasing down white supremacists in a pink caddy, and lines like ‘Obviously a hardened criminal. I can tell by your kewpie-doll lips’ was a cool respite!”

And here’s Ron with the No. 1 movie mentioned by readers:

“Whenever July 4th rolls around, I always think of the theme song from Jaws. That movie sets the bar for summer movies; nothing better!”

Thanks for all the responses this week! I’m sorry I couldn’t get to everyone, but it was nice hearing from y’all!

Thanks for reading and have a nice night! I’ll see you on Monday. If you like what you just read, you can subscribe to the newsletter here and have it delivered to your inbox.

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